A $17 million agreement to buoy San Pedro’s AltaSea — vowing to forge the world’s largest ocean tech hub — was feted on Thursday, June 8, at a ceremonial groundbreaking and speeches that drew some 200 people on World Ocean Day.
In the works since the idea hatched in the early 2000s, AltaSea is being created using historic port warehouses that are more than 100 years old at 2451 S. Signal St., across from Warehouse One. The research, education and workforce/innovation center will focus on ocean-based solutions to climate change.
For Geraldine Knatz, the former Port of Los Angeles executive director and now chairperson of AltaSea’s Board of Directors, recalled the somewhat long and sometimes slow evolution of the vision that began when she first began talking about the vision to bring university researchers together at what was named City Dock One to set up a collaboration.
Her early outreach talks found receptive audiences who encouraged her to “think big” and “think like an entrepreneur.”
“I thought we must really be on to something,” she said of the encouragement and learning that the Anneberg Foundation had pledged “millions of dollars” in a substantial start-up grant.
While the progress has been sometimes slow, the vision seems to be hitting its stride, several speakers at the event said. Jenny C. Krusoe, the founding executive director, was praised for her work on the project since the beginning. “She was the glue that held AltaSea together for 10 years,” Knatz said.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka recalled meeting with Krusoe shortly after taking over his position in 2014 and marveling at the vision and helping to create a vision with Zoom calls with Councilmember Tim McOsker who before being elected was AltaSea’s CEO, “from his backyard to my backyard” .
“I know there’s much more to do,” Seroka said, “but it’s time to take a few moments to celebrate” what’s been accomplished so far.
McOsker, now the area’s Los Angeles City Council representative, first became involved as the project’s attorney who helped craft a more affordable vision for the plan and then became AltaSea’s CEO.
“We’re still actively raising funds to complete all four of the warehouses and fund the programs,” said Terry Tamminen, now president and CEO of AltaSea. “There’s a lot more work and fundraising to be done.”
The 35-acre waterfront campus also received a $29 million contribution from the state of California, Port of Los Angeles and philanthropies toward the renovation of three warehouses. It will pay for the construction costs and a linear park and garden area, along with the installation of solar panels on the rooftop.
The backdrop to the celebratory event was a historic tall ship from the Los Angeles Maritime Institute next to a modern aquaculture vessel.
Growing up, McOsker said, it was outer space that held the answers to the future. Now, it also is the ocean, he said, adding it promises to bring forth unexpected discoveries and future answers as well as jobs.
The research that will be done at AltaSea, he said, “not only will save the planet but bring new opportunities. We owe that to the future.”
“It was when (McOsker) was CEO that my husband Richard and I made our ($5 million) commitment to AltaSea,” said philanthropist Melanie Lundquist.
It was the second largest donation to the center behind the one from Wallis Annenberg.
“We believe AltaSea is the innovation that will end up saving the planet,” she said. “We believe its best days are ahead and now, let’s break ground.”
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